A court of Episcopal Church bishops has ruled that a brother bishop should be punished for his adulterous affair of nearly two decades ago.

The nine-bishop court ruled that Charles Jones, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Montana since 1986, should face some form of discipline to be determined by the court.

Jones could be reprimanded, suspended, or removed from office. The court gave both sides of the case most of January to comment on the bishop's punishment, and it scheduled a hearing for January 30.

The court has been deliberating this case since February 1999, when it first received charges against Jones. In August 2000, the court ruled that Jones's adultery qualified as immorality, conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, and sexual exploitation.

According to the court's ruling, the affair occurred "in or about [in] 1982," four years before Jones was elected a bishop.

Both Jones and the woman involved in the affair have kept their respective marriages intact since then. But the woman says the affair harmed her relationship with God and with the church. "God was taken away from me," she said in a written complaint. Though trial briefs cite the woman by name, reporters have respected her wish to remain anonymous.

Jones was rector of a church in Russellville, Kentucky, when the affair occurred. The woman was a member of his church and worked there as a housekeeper and coordinator of its Sunday-school program. She expressed interest in being ordained to the priesthood, and Jones was her sponsor in that goal. Jones is a godfather to one of her children.

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